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Memories of The Gallowgate

An Abridged Version appeared in "Total Football"  December 2000

Geordie folklore has it that all true Newcastle fans were born on the Leazes end of St.James’ Park. However, for younger generations of fans, their spiritual home was the uncovered terrace at the opposite end of the pitch – the Gallowgate End.

In a mirror image of the confusion on the field, the Newcastle Directors elected to demolish the old covered Leazes End in 1978, then discovered they had insufficient funds to build more than a glorified farmyard stockade in its place.

Famously in 1969, bottles had rained down on Willie McFaul’s goal as hordes of inebriated Glaswegians had reacted badly to Rangers going 2-0 behind in a Fairs Cup Semi Final. Another memorable Cup game in 1974 saw an estimated 13,000 Nottingham Forest supporters pack into a crowd of 54,500, many of them in the Gallowgate end. On this occasion, the FA Cup 6th Round tie had to replayed after Newcastle fans streamed upfield and confronted the Forest supporters, some brave/mad souls charging full-pelt into the crowded Gallowgate end.

By the grim days of the 1980’s, when travelling supporters were corralled in their own section of the Leazes End, Gallowgate regulars dispersed themselves across the terrace according to their commitment, vocal ability and state of intoxication. The centre section always seemed to contain those who’d enjoyed the most hospitality in local pubs. Unfortunately, this was invariably accompanied by bladder weakness and a resistance to using the primitive toilet facilities. A familiar rite of passage was that unpleasant warm, wet feeling on the back of one’s jeans....

The West Section of the Gallowgate always seemed to be the haunt of the real malcontents among the support, and a contingent of vastly-experienced moaners were always to be found clustered underneath the floodlight pylon. Finally, the East section, known to all and sundry as "the corner" gradually usurped the central section as the epicentre of vocal support and antagonising the local Constabulary.

Video footage of the standing era at St.James’ Park has captured many memorable images of days past on the Gallowgate. A narrow win over Charlton captured by "Match of the Day" memorably shows steam rising as thousands of rain-sodden Geordies literally danced for joy. For sheer spectacle however, the debut of Kevin Keegan on a sunny day in 1982, was surely the finest hour and a half of the Gallowgate.

Those canny souls who ran United at the time had earned an extra few pounds by shoehorning thousands of fans on to the Gallowgate End (with more locked out), and the arrival of the great man was greeted by wild cheers and thousands of black and white scarves being twirled above heads.

Of course, the Gods that dictate such things decreed that Keegan scored the only goal of the game at that end, and was then enveloped by the rejoicing masses. He later said that "the crowd had sucked the ball in." He may have had a point...

Now the Gallowgate end is part of history and modern generations of Newcastle fans seemed prepared to meekly sit in their seats. They may have comfort and shelter, but at the expense of what for many was an unforgettable experience.


Page last updated 24 June, 2009